This is a matter of National Security. The reasons it has not been addressed aren't so simple,but the solutions to the problem ARE.
The reason we're seeing cases of e coli pop up related to various produce isn't rocket science. E coli exists in poop and the intestines of livestock. Actually,it's not confined to just pigs and cows,but for the sake of this discussion,those two critters are the source of the problem. Actually,it's the WAY THEY ARE FARMED that's the REAL issue here.
What's happening is that the poop from these animals in factory farms is running off into the irrigation water supply. So,when the veggie farm down the road from the cow farm sprays that water on their veggies,voila! you have contamination. It is that simple. There has been some implication in the media that it's the fault of those dirty migrant farm workers. Um,nooo,it's not.
The good news is that this can be fixed. The bad news is that the industries involved have a heavy lobbying presence in Washington DC,and our federal government keeps cutting the number of inspectors,and keeps crafting legislation with zero teeth to make industry shape up.
How to fix it? Here's my take:
1)Compost the poop. Yes,that's right. The process of composting heats up the poop(or any other organic matter one chooses to compost)to the temp that it kills harmful bacteria. People will pay good money for good compost too,so it can turn a profit.
2)Limit the number of animals that can live on an acre of ground at any given moment. This allows the land itself to take care of la poop,Mother Nature is quite wise in how she handles such things. Combine that with a simple composting operation and I'd betcha this e coli problem would drop dramatically.
3)Stop allowing agribusiness to make it's own rules for operation. This is a problem in DC,and not just with agribusiness,as we know. Time after time,big bidness has proven it will NOT do the right thing when no one is looking. They have had more than enough chances to clean up their act. Like a child who is not ready to be on their own,we,via our government will need to take back the reigns of control. It might be worth our while to write passionate and well thought out letters to Speaker Pelosi about this,as well as Senate Majority Leader Reid. We need to bug the fuck out of them until this is addressed,and it needs to be framed as a Security issue,not just as a public health crisis.
4)Require testing of irrigation water sources regularly. That means we'll need more inspectors and more inforcement of simple health considerations. The cost of this is much less than food suppliers having to settle multiple lawsuits related to food poisoning.
5)Ultimately,there is going to have to be a movement back to individual communities providing much of their own food. This movement needs to happen quietly and with a purpose. Big bidness can,has,and will try to stop this,make no mistake about it. Communities will have to be innovative,creative and fiercely defensive of these moves to regain control,but it can be done. There is a myth that commerical farming practices are more efficient,which is crap. Monoplanting corn,soybeans,grains,and other crops is not the answer. If it were,there would be no hunger problem.
6)Here's some reliable resources you can consult if this topic interests you:
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
Hope's Edge by Anna and Frances Moore Lappe'
Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe'
The Rodale Book of Composting by Rodale Press
World Hunger: 12 Myths by Francis Moore Lappe',Joseph Collins and Peter Rosset
Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen by Anna Lappe' and Bryant Terry
Rats in the Grain: The Dirty Tricks of Archer Daniels Midland,Supermarket to the World by James Lieber
The Informant: A True Story by Kurt Eichenwald
Bad Seed: The Truth About Our Food
PBS Frontline: Modern Meat
And that's my short list. I have errands to handle today,if there's an interest,I'll post some links to online resources later today by updating this post. This issue is a passion of mine,but alot of people roll their eyes and shut down when I bring it up.
Lastly,if there is ever a crisis,where the grid goes down in parts of the country or some weather related disaster or natural disaster(or a man made one)happens,people in this country,even affluent folks ,WILL starve because so few people have the slightest clue about how to grow,store and prepare their food properly. Big cities are the most vulnerable places. This doesn't have to happen,but Americans need to stop being so fucking lazy and clueless. As I said,this is a matter of national security and should be treated as such.